By Kristine Balding
At the age of seven my father died of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. For two years I watched my mother’s heart slowly break as he suffered in pain. My father would pray to God, not with thanksgiving, but constantly asking, “why have you forsaken me?” He did not know God until his dying days and I can only hope to him in heaven one day. My mother was Catholic, so I was raised strict Catholic. I was an alter girl, straight A student, I played sports, and did everything “right”. We went to church every Sunday but I never knew God. At the age of 14 I became pregnant, which was a huge surprise to everyone that knew me. I was looking for male attention and was scared to be alone, but this decision caused me to be shunned from the Catholic Church. Despite my rebellion, however, my mother was good to me and God continued to be with me every step of the way. I had my healthy son at fourteen, went on to receive my GED, and then get into nursing school. I was a graduated LPN nurse by the age of 17 years old. God is good! What happened then was nothing short of God’s work.
All his life, my husband, Matt, was bounced around from mother to father, grandparent to grandparent. His family was divorced and torn apart; His mother neglected him often, his father didn’t want him, and his step-father was physically abusive. However his grandma was a good Christian.
At an early age Matt started drinking and experimenting with drugs and gangs. He drifted in and out of boy’s schools, and even to a psych unit once for over dosing on Xanax. Matt did time for DUI, drug dealing, battery, and escape, even after his schooling was complete. Prison became the only consistent home he had ever had. This is where our paths crossed.
I was a nurse at the Indiana State Prison, where Matt had come because the other prison couldn’t handle him. Matt, with tattoos and long hair in a pony tail, was a very arrogant man who played the tough guy. I didn’t like him at all when I first met him, but as a nurse I was worried about his safety because he was going to be placed into a cellblock that held the worst of the worst in the state. I knew his attitude could get him into a lot of trouble with those guys, so I would check on him often. Our friendship blossomed as we continued visiting each other- me to his cell, and he to the medical station. Soon, though, he was secured in a cell that ensured safety from other prisoners, and I resigned from my position.
Matt and I began to write. We slowly opened up to each other and soon he stopped all the smoking, drugs, and drinking. In prison, Matt stayed clear from trouble. He took an anger management class and also started talking to a priest from Notre Dame. Matt was growing and I could see it. I started going to see him, and we soon fell in love. We applied to get married in prison, and were approved; we married on November 22, 2005.
Matt was released from prison on October 24, 2006, and our marriage had a rocky start. We loved each other, but transitioning out of institutionalized life was very hard. Matt never missed his probation meetings, relapsed, or abused me at all, but he couldn’t break habits such as lying which drove me nuts. Eventually I got us set up with a counselor who had been recommended to us.
That was the beginning of our journey together in Christ. Matt became interested and realized that God had brought us together and was the only one who could help him. Often we would pray together, and several times during our marriage we would hear God softly tell us to “be still” during arguments and hard times. We soon had steady jobs and a beautiful home filled with three wonderful children, but we just couldn’t seem to find a church that fit us.
During Christmas time, one of my co-workers gave me an invitation to GCC for the Christmas services. We went and it was amazing; we could wear our jeans, drink a coffee, and hear amazing music and an awesome message: all with accepting people every week.
That was two and a half years ago.
We love God and GCC. I am glad that no matter what we do, or what happens to us, God sees the good in us and continues to love us. I want to be like that toward everyone I meet.
My husband was labeled a prisoner, drug dealer, violent, gang member, and a bad person. Today, he is a wonderful father, supervisor of his own department, husband, Christian, and productive member of society! He is my treasure and God’s son. God has given us both a new name and new identity and we are so grateful to be on this journey together, and with all of you.
Please contact us if you are having a hard time and need a listening ear, especially if any of what we went through resounds with your experiences!